Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How Working Papers Work or Don't in Economics

Before economists publish papers they often write a working paper. The paper is a rough draft that hasn't usually been through a formal review process although some more prestigious working paper series do review papers (NBER for example). In economics since it can take anywhere from one to many years to get a paper published once it is submitted, economists use their working paper to get their research distributed.

Berk Ozer from the World Bank suggests that economists might be releasing working papers too soon in this blog post, making a bad first impression. From the comments of the post and the post overall, I wonder if the profession wouldn't be well served by a better working paper site. On the site people could post feedback on papers, economists could post updated papers, and write notes about the paper. People could follow a paper and find out when it was published. As an added bonus the system could create and update bibliographies.

Of course this would be a public good, but maybe it is something that one of the working paper websites like SSRN or IDEAS could take on.

In the mean time, I will continue to post my working papers as part of Towson's working paper series. I also keep meaning to blog more about actual published articles, as the Ozer posts suggests blogs are often too quick to jump on interesting working paper results, before the papers have been vetted.

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1 comment:

Kate A. Anderson said...

The physics community has such a working paper site. It's called the arxiv (pronounced "archive"). Physicist post working papers there. The site has a system for posting updates and addenda that are logged automatically (everyone can see when you update a paper). In fields that used the arxiv extensively (eg: High Energy Theory), few people pay attention to published work--they just read the arxiv. It seems beneficial to the progress of the field, because even with a shorter publication cycle (6 weeks from submission to print) by the time a work is published, it's already old news. Given the years-long publication cycle for economics, it seems crazy that we don't have something similar.